After my time in the Aquarium of the Bay, I decided to walk around the Wharf and saw that you could take a ferry ride around the bay, getting the chance to float under the Golden Gate Bridge and get up close to Alcatraz, which is great especially if you can’t get tickets to Alcatraz (like me). I read in my travel book that you should buy your tickets to Alcatraz a week ahead of time, which I tried to do last week, but they were completely sold out!
On the Alcatraz website, they state that the tickets go on sale about 90 days ahead of time, so if you're traveling to San Francisco, buy your tickets to Alcatraz as soon as possible. They're an all-inclusive price, so it pays for the round trip ferry ride and admission to Alcatraz; there are other liners that will charge you separate fees, resulting in you paying more. If you can't get tickets, I did read that they save 50 tickets for the actual day of the ferry, but people start to wait in line around 5 a.m. I mean, you can always do that if your hotel is close enough, but ours wasn't.
There are many different kinds of ferry tours you can take of the Bay; I ended up taking the “Tour of the Bay,” which runs about $28, but you can get a coupon for $5 off from the San Francisco Visitor’s Center (again, put that money towards a Ghiradelli chocolate milkshake…remember, happiness in a cup). The cruise ran about an hour, but it was freeing to sit onto of the boat and experience the salty, fresh air of the Bay, watch the San Francisco city line fade from view, gain a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and get close to Alcatraz. The tour actually provided me with a lot of information about San Francisco and the Bay that I never knew. As I’ve written previously, the Golden Gate Bridge has nothing to do with the color of the bridge (as I always thought), but rather the fact the area where the bridge was put in was referred to as the “Golden Gate.”
Did you know that “alcatraz” comes from spanish word “alcatraces,” meaning “pelicans?” Yeah, the Spanish conquistadors were exploring the west and saw this island in the Bay that was full of a ton of pelicans, so they named the island Alcatraz. They apparently used Alcatraz as a base to protect their port, which makes sense given Alcatraz is located in the middle of the Bay. When the Americans took over, they too thought it was a great place to hold their naval and military base. However, they soon realized that it’s quite cold and foggy in the Bay, and rather unpleasant to live in. So, why not make a prison? The tour further explained that during this time, crime and gangsters was becoming a trend and the U.S. government wanted to send a message that crime did not pay. So they set up an intimidating place like Alcatraz to scare people into abiding the law. They only sent really bad people to Alcatraz. Apparently they were very selective of the people sent there, because while Alcatraz could hold around 300 people, it was never full at any point. They did tell us that the prisoners were allegedly brought in on steamboats in those crates they use to ship cargo with the prisoners chained into the metal crates. The prisoners where apparently lifted into Alcatraz without ever walking or seeing fresh air. Now, I’m not entirely sure that’s true; it sounds more of a legend, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Alcatraz seems like such a scary place that it makes you wonder how people survived it, and if anyone could escape. I mean, it’s not that isolated. It literally takes five minutes by boat to get there from the shore, so you’d think a desperate prisoner could make the swim. Apparently thirty-six inmates attempted to flee from Alcatraz, but they either were captured or killed. Although, in 1937, an inmate did escape and “disappeared.” The tour guide told us he died in the water and drowned because the Bay is so “rough.” But, I’m telling, the water really wasn’t that terrible, so I’m thinking he escaped and they never found him…#scarythought
They also kept telling us stories of ships crashing into each other and sinking “within ten minutes” when they were first settling San Francisco. They also mentioned how cold and foggy it gets, yet I did not experience any of that. I did hear from the locals that it apparently awful in June because it’s foggy and cold, but it was absolutely beautiful and sunny when I was there.
Check out my pictures from the San Francisco Bay below!
NOTE: The ferry tour took us up to the Golden Gate Bridge, under it, then it turned around and it went around Alcatraz before docking back at Pier 39. The picture gallery is somewhat in reverse order because that's how they uploaded...and I'm a bit too lazy to put it in order...